Trump Administration's Bromance With Brazil's Far-Right President-Elect Is Already Underway

Turns out, love is in the air between the Trump administration and the newly elected president of Brazil.

On Friday night, the White House's National Security Council (NSC) applauded Jair Bolsonaro's decision to change the terms of "Mais Medicos (More Doctors)" a program created in 2013 that allowed Cuba to deploy health professionals across the South American country's poorest regions. Following Bolsonaro's comments about the quality of doctors' training in Cuba and his description of the arrangement as "slave labor," the island nation told the Pan-American Health Organization, which has helped coordinate the program, that it will pull the doctors from Brazil.

In a thread written in Portuguese and English, the NSC said that "we commended Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro for taking a stance against the Cuban regime for violating the human rights of its people, including doctors leased abroad under inhumane conditions."

Elogiamos o presidente eleito do Brasil, @JairBolsonaro, por tomar posição contra o regime cubano por violar os direitos humanos de seu povo, incluindo médicos enviados para o exterior em condições desumanas.

— NSC (@WHNSC) November 16, 2018

Hours later, Bolsonaro replied with a "thank you" and a thumbs-up emoji.

Thank you 👍🏻

— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) November 16, 2018

Bolsonaro doubled down on his attack against the program. "The doctors must pass a proficiency test; their salaries would be entirely to the individuals and not to the Cuban government; and that they could bring their families along if hired. Unfortunately, Cuba has refused our offer," he said in a statement on Wednesday.

Bolsonaro went on to say that Cuba is exploiting its health professionals "by not paying their salaries in full," and stressed that the "Cuban dictatorship shows a great deal of irresponsibility in dismissing the negative impact in the lives and health of us Brazilians and in the integrity of the Cuban people."

According to the right-wing leader, Cuba obtains the lion's share of the funds "allocated to this program and still suppresses the liberties of these professionals and their families." He said that Cuba refused to "fix the deplorable situation of these doctors in a clear violation of human rights."

The president-elect ended his statement in a tone that seemingly mirrors President Donald Trump's messages on social media: "A truly regrettable decision!"

For its part, the Cuban Health Ministry accused Bolsonaro of making derogatory and threatening comments. "These unacceptable conditions make it impossible to maintain the presence of Cuban professionals in the program," the ministry said on Wednesday, according to The New York Times.

The NSC's message is a recent display of affection between the White House and the Brazilian president-elect. A day after Bolsonaro's win on October 28, Trump tweeted that he "had a good conversation with the newly elected President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who won his race by a substantial margin." He then added that "we agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on trade, military and everything else! Wished him congrats."

Had a very good conversation with the newly elected President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who won his race by a substantial margin. We agreed that Brazil and the United States will work closely together on Trade, Military and everything else! Excellent call, wished him congrats!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2018

In light of Trump's congratulatory note, publications such as The Guardian signaled that "a new axis in the Americas looked possible," adding that "the remarks suggest an affinity that could reshape politics in the region and beyond."

Early this month, Trump's top security adviser John Bolton hailed Bolsonaro's victory as a "positive sign" while announcing tougher sanctions against Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, countries he labeled as the "troika of tyranny." Bolton told a Miami crowd at the time that "the recent elections of like-minded leaders in key countries, including Ivan Duque in Colombia, and last weekend Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, are positive signs for the future of the region."

Bolsonaro earned the moniker "Trump of the Tropics" due to a populist style and off-color rhetoric that very much resemble that of the U.S. commander-in-chief. Bolsonaro's homophobic, racist and misogynist comments sparked outrage within a sector of the population, but he dismissed the criticism. "Political correctness is a thing of leftist radicals," he told a local newspaper in June. "I am one of the most attacked persons."

The president-elect shares some aspects of Trump's foreign policy. Bolsonaro has expressed interest in moving the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and he's a firm believer that China has been unfair to Brazil's economy. He once pledged to remove Brazil from the 2015 Paris climate accord, calling global warming a "greenhouse fable." Like Trump, he has an unfavorable view of Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro.

Brazilian president-elect Jair Bolsonaro delivers a joint press conference with Brazilian President Michel Temer (out of frame) after a meeting in Brasilia on November 7. EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images

However, when asked about the comparison between Bolsonaro and the U.S. president, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters in late October that "there's only one Donald Trump in my opinion."

It's still unknown whether Trump will attend Bolsonaro's swearing-in on January 1, 2019.

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